Scheliha was born in Zessel, Oels, Silesia (now Cieśle, Gmina Oleśnica, Poland), as the son of a Prussian squire. He served as an army officer in World War I, studied law and joined the German Foreign Service in 1922. As a member of the German Embassy in Warsaw he became aware of the atrocities committed in the name of the Third Reich under the Nazi regime. After the outbreak of World War II, he tried to help his Polish and Jewish friends and attempted to make the world aware of the impending systematic murder of the Jewish people. Suspected by the Gestapo for his critical attitude, he was charged with being a member of the Red Orchestra, sentenced to death by hanging, and executed in Plötzensee Prison.